Twenty-one immigration offenders arrested

24 January 2017

The Immigration Department (ImmD) mounted a series of territory-wide enforcement operations, including an operation codenamed "Twilight" and joint operations with other law enforcement agencies codenamed "Champion" and "Windsand", on January 22 and 23 to combat illegal employment activities. A total of 18 illegal workers and three suspected employers were arrested.

During operation "Twilight", ImmD Task Force officers raided seven target locations including restaurants, an elderly care centre, a guesthouse, an office, a plant nursery and a residential flat under renovation. Four illegal workers and two employers were arrested. The four illegal workers comprised three men and a woman, aged 42 to 52. The woman was suspected of using and being in possession of a forged Hong Kong identity card. Meanwhile two women, aged 48 and 51, were suspected of employing the illegal workers.

During operation "Champion", enforcement officers raided four target locations including restaurants and a sport centre in Central district. Two illegal workers and an employer were arrested. The two male illegal workers were aged 39 and 42, of which one of them was a holder of recognisance form, which prohibits him from taking any employment. Meanwhile, a man aged 27 was suspected of employing the illegal workers.

In addition, during operation "Windsand", 12 Mainland visitors comprising eight men and four women, aged 23 to 55, were arrested for breaching their conditions of stay by being involved in suspected parallel goods trading at Cheuk Wan Street, Po Wan Road, Ka Fu Close and Shek Wu Hui Jockey Club Playground in Sheung Shui as well as Castle Peak Road - San Tin in Lok Ma Chau. The goods included milk powder, red wine, food, skin-care products, cosmetics products and daily necessities.

Since September 2012, a number of "Windsand" operations have been conducted, during which a total of 3 181 Mainlanders and 18 Hong Kong residents were arrested for suspected involvement in parallel goods trading. Of these, 233 Mainlanders were prosecuted for breach of conditions of stay, while the remaining 2 948 people were repatriated. Among those prosecuted, 222 were sentenced to imprisonment for between four weeks and three months, one is pending court hearing and charges were withdrawn for the other 10 people.

"Any person who contravenes a condition of stay in force in respect of him shall be guilty of an offence. Also, visitors are not allowed to take employment in Hong Kong, whether paid or unpaid, without the permission of the Director of Immigration. Offenders are liable to prosecution and upon conviction face a maximum fine of $50,000 and up to two years' imprisonment," an ImmD spokesman said.

The spokesman warned that, as stipulated in section 38AA of the Immigration Ordinance, illegal immigrants or people who are the subject of a removal order or a deportation order are prohibited from taking any employment, whether paid or unpaid, or establishing or joining in any business. Offenders are liable upon conviction to a maximum fine of $50,000 and up to three years' imprisonment. The Court of Appeal has issued a guideline ruling that a sentence of 15 months' imprisonment should be applied in such cases.

The spokesman also warned that it is an offence to use or possess a forged Hong Kong identity card or a Hong Kong identity card related to another person. Offenders are liable to prosecution and a maximum penalty of a $100,000 fine and up to 10 years' imprisonment.

The spokesman reiterated that it is a serious offence to employ people who are not lawfully employable. The maximum penalty is imprisonment for three years and a fine of $350,000. The High Court has laid down sentencing guidelines that the employer of an illegal worker should be given an immediate custodial sentence. According to the court sentencing, employers must take all practicable steps to determine whether a person is lawfully employable prior to employment. Apart from inspecting a prospective employee's identity card, the employer has the explicit duty to make enquiries regarding the person and ensure that the answers would not cast any reasonable doubt concerning the lawful employability of the person. The court will not accept failure to do so as a defence in proceedings. It is also an offence if an employer fails to inspect the job seeker's valid travel document if the job seeker does not have a Hong Kong permanent identity card. The maximum penalty for failing to inspect such a document is imprisonment for one year and a fine of $150,000.